Fire Breaks Out at Former Paper Mill in Oregon City

The former site of the Blue Heron Paper Mill in Oregon City erupted in a three-alarm fire Saturday afternoon.

The Clackamas Fire District reported the fire broke out at approximately 2:06 p.m. The first crews on the scene reported heavy black smoke from a large abandoned commercial building at the south end of the mill property, which is located in downtown Oregon City near Willamette Falls.

Firefighters went to work to locate the blaze, ventilate the structure and attempt to search the building. The fire was quickly upgraded to a second and third alarm, bringing in additional firefighting resources.

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Firefighters are setting up for defensive firefighting at the Blue Heron Paper Mill. Aerial ladders and additional fire hydrants are being used to apply large amounts of water. Please avoid Main Street in Oregon City to allow firefighters access.

Fire conditions soon changed, first responders reported, causing structural instability of the building and extremely high interior temperatures. This forced firefighters to exit and begin defensive fire operations from outside the building.

Several trucks with large aerial ladders and waterways were positioned around the building to spray water from above to extinguish the fire while keeping firefighters in a safe location.

Firefighters were forced to stretch hose lines across Highway 99E and the railroad tracks to access additional hydrants. Both the highway and railroad tracks were closed Saturday afternoon while crews were on scene.

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Crews are on scene of a third alarm fire at the old Blue Heron Paper Mill in Oregon City. Due to heavy fire involvement firefighters are operating in a defensive mode from outside the building.

Firefighters said they would remain on scene throughout the night to ensure the fire was contained and investigate what caused it to break out. No injuries have been reported. Clackamas Fire was assisted by the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue and Gladstone Fire Department.

The 23-acre Blue Heron paper mill site closed in 2011. Clackamas Fire staged training exercises at the site in 2017. It has also been used as a location for the television series Grimm and stood in for the Grisham Mill in the 2008 film Twilight.

Last year, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde finalized a deal to buy the property, which lies in the heart of their ancestral tribal lands.

They said in September 2019 they were working with Metro and Oregon City on plans for a riverwalk and pedestrian plaza with views of the falls. There were also efforts underway to repair and reopen the Willamette Falls Locks.

Photos courtesy Clackamas Fire and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office:

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